The start of a new year is a great time to try new things and turn interests into hobbies. DJ’ing has become more and more accessible in recent years, thanks to the uprise in controllers and applications.
So if you’re looking to get into DJ’ing this new year, what would be the best purchase in terms of value for money and performance features? Let’s find out!
It may depend on what you already own
DJ’ing used to be about owning thousands of records or CDs, not to mention owning the expensive equipment too. Thankfully for beginners, those costly hurdles are now gone.
These days you can start with something as simple as your phone and a free application. The experience isn’t the best when just using your finger, so we always recommend using actual physical hardware. Thankfully, controllers now start from as little as £79!
DJ’ing with Mobile Devices
If you already own an iPad or iPhone and don’t already have a laptop, you may want to consider DJ’ing on your mobile device. Thanks to excellent app development and the use of dongles, this isn’t as gimmicky as it may first seem.
Mobile DJ’ing now offers a lot of performance for very little money.
Algoriddim DJ has long been the stand out app for DJ’ing on an iOS device. With a long list of supported controllers that connect with an adaptor, Algoriddim can be used either for free or unlocked for a small monthly fee.
The best feature for most users is the Spotify integration. Algoriddim is currently the only software that a DJ can use to stream songs from the worlds most popular streaming service. A real bonus for those beginner DJ’s who don’t have an extensive music collection.
We recommend pairing Algoriddim with the fantastic Pioneer DDJ 400, a beginner based controller that costs around £250. The DDJ 400 is plug and play with Algoriddim with minimal fuss setting up.
Unlike the smaller DDJ 200 controller, the 400 features an onboard soundcard which makes plugging into speakers and headphones a straight forward process. It’s worth remembering that the DDJ 400 also unlocks the Pioneer Rekordbox laptop software, so should you wish to progress on you won’t need to reinvest in a new controller!
Pioneer DJ recently updated the WeDJ application with the release of the DDJ-200. A tiny controller with no audio connections, the controller connects to your device via Bluetooth and uses the iPad/iPhones, headphone port to output audio.
As many people will already know, the latest iOS devices don’t carry a headphone port, so get used to carrying dongles plus a battery pack to power the controller too.
Despite its fiddly cable management, the DDJ 200 offers the layout and image of the more significant Pioneer devices and the portability of the controller is great!
We like the WeDJ app too with its intuitive phrase sync tool to stop beginners from the dread vocal clash. The application allows streaming from Beatport Link and Soundcloud GO you also don’t need an extensive music library to get started!
Unfortunately, the WeDJ application only works with the DDJ 200 or WeGO 4 and out of the two, we would only recommend the 200!
DJ’ing with a laptop
If you have a computer, your choices are broader. The leading three software platforms are currently Rekordbox, Serato and Traktor. All three are advanced software with many performance features.
Serato offers a free version called Serato DJ Lite, compatible with cheaper beginner controllers free of charge. More advanced DJ features have been removed to make the experience easier to understand.
Set up is very simple, plug in the controller and you’re away. The software also allows DJ’s to stream direct from Tidal or Soundcloud Go, great for DJ’s who don’t have an extensive music collection.
The Hercules DJ Starlight Control is one of the cheapest and smallest Serato controllers we have ever used. At just £70, this controller won’t break the bank and is small enough to travel in your backpack for on the go mixing.
Other devices to consider with Serato include the Pioneer DDJ-SB3. It features excellent build quality and a unique pad scratch feature which allows you to have DJ Jazzy Jeff scratch on your hot cues. An excellent tool for beginners who want to learn to scratch! The club-style layout and reliable Pioneer DJ build quality have helped the SB3 become one of the best selling controllers for Serato DJ Lite.
Rekordbox DJ doesn’t offer a stripped-down version of the software, and it retails for £129. It’s worth noting that some hardware will come with a licence key or unlock the software for free.
Pioneer DJ has included support for almost all of its class-leading hardware. The advantage of Rekordbox is that you can access all of the performance features straight away. However, this can also lead to a lot of confusion and distraction with beginner DJs.
It’s worth remembering that you can only use Pioneer DJ hardware with Rekordbox DJ too. Although Pioneer DJ makes some of the best controllers on the market, they are also quite expensive compared to rivals.
The fantastic DDJ-400 at £249 is the pick of the bunch for beginners. Featuring a small form factor, excellent performance features and a club derived layout.
Native Instruments have two versions of Traktor available, with a Traktor 2 being free of charge and aimed at beginners. Available for iPad and computer, only the Traktor Kontrol S2 MK3 currently supports it. The S2 MK3 is a fantastic controller which features great build quality for the price.
Traktor Pro 3 is feeling a bit dated compared to its rivals. The library management is weak, there’s no streaming, and it doesn’t even support high-resolution displays.
Traktor does feature some of the best sounding inbuilt effects. Thanks to its advanced remix and stem decks, it’s the choice of many house and techno DJ’s around the world.
If you’re hoping to progress into this style of DJ, starting with Traktor, maybe the best move for yourself. With the full professional software included with the entry-level controller, you can grow into the software as your skills progress!
Why Buy New?
With beginner controllers starting from £70 and ranging up to around £300, you might get a better controller for less second-hand.
Intermediate and professional controllers from brands such as Pioneer DJ, Denon DJ, and Native Instruments are available for much less than their original RRP.
More significant controllers bring with them a more professional connection with XLR master outs and TRS booth connections. These connections allow you to use the controller in more professional settings and develop your skills further. We had a look at our local second-hand shop plus online auction sites and found a variety of mid to high range controllers at similar prices to their beginner counterparts.
If you are serious about wanting to take your DJ’ing further and don’t want to be held back in your progression by the limitations of smaller controllers, looking on the second-hand market might be the right move for you.
Just be careful that you check the usual weak points in the controller such as cue buttons, faders, and USB ports and if required, ensure you get the serial number for any software required.
Wanting to take your DJ’ing to the next level?
We offer a fantastic range of DJ courses on all the platforms mentioned above, here are some of our best selling courses!